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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Plague Letters by V. L. Valentine

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Viper Books
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Thriller

SYNOPSIS:

WHO WOULD MURDER THE DYING…

London, 1665. Hidden within the growing pile of corpses in his churchyard, Rector Symon Patrick discovers a victim of the pestilence unlike any he has seen before: a young woman with a shorn head, covered in burns, and with pieces of twine delicately tied around each wrist and ankle.

Desperate to discover the culprit, Symon joins a society of eccentric medical men who have gathered to find a cure for the plague. Someone is performing terrible experiments upon the dying, hiding their bodies amongst the hundreds that fill the death carts.

Only Penelope – a new and mysterious addition to Symon’s household – may have the skill to find the killer. Far more than what she appears, she is already on the hunt. But the dark presence that enters the houses of the sick will not stop, and has no mercy…

This hugely atmospheric and entertaining historical thriller will transport readers to the palaces and alleyways of seventeenth-century London. Perfect for fans of Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Andrew Taylor and C.J. Sansom.

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MY REVIEW:

Hear ye! Hear ye! The society for the prevention and cure of the plague is now in session. And they’re hunting for a killer. Could he be closer than they think?

London, 1655. The Bubonic Plague is spreading and the number of corpses piled in the churchyard grows each day. But the virus isn’t the only killer stalking the city. There is another threat hidden in their midst. One that lingers in the shadows hunting its prey just waiting for the perfect time to strike. Someone is murdering the dying; kidnapping those suffering from the plague and subjecting them to horrific experiments. 

Rector Symon Patrick is the one to first notice the strange marks on some of the dead in his parish. Together with Penelope, a mysterious young woman who recently joined his household, and a group of medical professionals calling themselves the plague society, he sets out to find the merciless killer.

A gripping whodunit with a sinister and supernatural twist, this is an outstanding debut. Valentine transports you back to a time of death and peril, taking you on a journey  through the filthy, pestilence-ridden streets of London. Her vast knowledge and research on this subject and time period is clearly shown in the societal, cultural and medical details she has woven into the story. The imagery is so vivid that you can almost smell the rot and decay in the air as the virus ravishes the population. 

It starts at a steady pace, slowly building up the mystery and tension. There is a creeping malice woven through the pages as the barbaric killer commits  gruesome acts of torture on already suffering victims. We know he is a cunning predator, so disturbed that he believes himself to be doing good, but everything else is a guessing game where we are almost as clueless as Symon and Penelope. Everyone is a suspect, and I had no one suspect in my mind even as we approached the big reveal. 

Most of the novel’s fascinating and memorable characters are based on real historical figures, adding to its air of authenticity. The protagonist, Symon, is a hapless sleuth who bumbles his way through the investigation. He isn’t even focused on his job as rector, instead more concerned with his complicated romance with a married woman. It is Penelope, the mysterious woman who has made herself a place in his household. Feisty, resilient and courageous, she was my favourite character. I loved how she was the total opposite of Symon and the driving force in the investigation, propelling things forward when he and the other members of the plague society would have just allowed things to happen. 

Atmospheric, haunting, compelling and darkly humorous, I lost myself in this book, relishing every word as I indulged my deep fascination with this time period and my love of historical and gothic mysteries. A delight for anyone who enjoys the genre, don’t miss this eerie tale. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

V.L. Valentine is a senior science editor at National Public Radio in Washington, D.C., where she covers infectious disease outbreaks such as the coronavirus pandemic, Ebola and the Zika. She has a master’s in the history of medicine from University College London. Her non-fiction work has been published by NPR, The New York Times, The Smithsonian Channel and Science Magazine.

Twitter |

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thank you to Viper Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book. Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Lost Hours by Susan Lewis

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Domestic Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

SYNOPSIS:

A perfect marriage…

Golden couple Annie and David Crayce have it all. A loving marriage, three beautiful children and a thriving family business. Life couldn’t be better. Until the unthinkable happens…   

A perfect crime? 

A piece of damning DNA evidence has arisen, placing David as the prime suspect of a murder committed twenty-years ago. Annie is sure her David is innocent. But if he isn’t guilty, then either his father or brother must be. 

As the police investigate the cold case, so does Annie. Trawling through her old diaries, she begins desperately looking for answers. But it all comes down to a few lost hours she can’t solve.

And Annie begins to doubt the one person she thought she knew best… Her husband.

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MY REVIEW:

“The perfect family… until you scratch the surface and out come all the bugs.”

The Lost Hours is the story of a picture-perfect family who seem to have it all until a damning piece of DNA evidence shows there is a killer lurking among them. Is it David; the police’s prime suspect in the twenty-year-old case who swears his innocence? Or his father or brother; who also claim to know nothing about the death of the local teenager. The police and the family are all searching for answers in this compelling and emotional page-turner. 

This story is every family’s worst nightmare: DNA evidence proves that someone in your family is linked to a murder but everyone swears they are innocent, and you don’t want to believe that someone you love, that you thought you knew, could have murdered a 17-year-old girl and then kept it hidden for twenty years. Told by dual narrators in dual timelines, it moves seamlessly between them to tell the story as it unfolds in the present day while also detailing events leading up to and immediately after Karen’s murder. 

The author starts the story with the unearthing of Karen’s body not long after her disappearance and then jumps forward twenty years, immersing us in the world of the Cayce family. We get to know the family, and while they may be a little too perfect, a little too twee, and the children a little spoiled, I did like them. It is cleverly written, as allowing us to build this rapport with them before the shock of the DNA evidence leaves you with the same sense of disbelief Annie has that anyone in this family could be hiding such a dark secret. Combined with her evocative writing this makes it one of those books you really feel while reading; feeling all of the pain, confusion and torment that Annie and the others are going through. 

For me, it was this emotional side of the story that I found most compelling. Seeing the mystery from that angle and watching as the family’s perfect world crumbled around them was what got my blood pumping and had me on the edge of my seat. I didn’t really vibe with Natalie, the detective investigating the murder. I found her annoying and it felt like she was allowing her own past to influence her investigation. I could have happily read the book without her point of view and think this would have been a five star read for me if the second narrator had instead been the mysterious murderer rather than Natalie. 

The Lost Hours is a taut, twisty, atmospheric and heart-rending family drama with a mysterious twist that keeps you guessing. I would recommend this book, and this author, and look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Susan Lewis is the internationally bestselling author of over forty books across the genres of family drama, thriller, suspense and crime, including One Minute Later, My Lies, Your Lies and Forgive Me. Susan’s novels have sold nearly three million copies in the UK alone. She is also the author of Just One More Day and One Day at a Time, the moving memoirs of her childhood in Bristol during the 1960s.

Susan has previously worked as a secretary in news and current affairs before training as a production assistant working on light entertainment and drama. She’s lived in Hollywood and the South of France, but now resides in Gloucestershire with husband James, two stepsons and dogs.

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Website |Instagram |Twitter |Facebook

BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and to Harper Collins UK for the gifted copy of the book. Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

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Blog Tours Book Features

Book Feature: What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson

Published: April 8th, 2021
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

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Today I’m featuring What Beauty There Is, an unflinching debut that is receiving some fantastic reviews. Coincidentally, today is release day, so Happy Publication Day to Cory Anderson 🥳

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SYNOPSIS:

When everything you love is in danger, how long can you keep running to survive?

Life can be brutal

Winter in Idaho. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.

Jack knew it

Jack Dahl has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he’d die for. Their mother is gone, and their funds are quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison.

So did I.

Ava lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father, a merciless man, has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one.

Did I feel the flutter of wings when Jack and I met? Did I sense the coming tornado?

But now Ava wants to break the rules – to let Jack in and open her heart. Then she discovers that Jack and her father are stalking the same money, and suddenly Ava is faced with a terrible choice: remain silent or speak out and help the brothers survive.

Looking back, I think I did . . .

Perfect for fans of Patrick Ness, Meg Rosoff and Daniel Woodrell, What Beauty There Is an unforgettable debut novel that is as compulsive as it is beautiful, and unflinchingly explores the power of determination, survival and love.

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Cory Anderson is a winner of the League of Utah Writers Young Adult Novel Award and Grand Prize in the Storymakers Conference First Chapter Contest. She lives in Farmington, Utah with her family. What Beauty There Is is her debut novel.

Website| Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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I love the UK cover, but check out its beautiful US counterpart:

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Thank you to The Write Reads for the invitation to take part in the tour and to Penguin UK for the gifted ARC.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Look What You Made Me Do by Nikki Smith

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Orion
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Domestic Fiction

SYNOPSIS:

Two people can keep a secret . . . if one of them is dead.

Sisters Jo and Caroline are used to hiding things from each other. They’ve never been close – taking it in turns to feel on the outside of their family unit, playing an endless game of favourites.

Jo envies Caroline’s life – things have always come so easy to her. Then a family inheritance falls entirely to Jo, and suddenly now Caroline wants what Jo has. Needs it, even.

But just how far will she go to get it?

You’ll be riveted by the new psychological suspense from Nikki Smith – a gripping gut-punch of a novel . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“Ooh, look what you made me do. Look what you made me do. Look what you just made me do.” I can’t be the only one that sings that every time I see this cover? Well as it turns out that anthem is the perfect soundtrack for this addictive, twisty page-turner as, once again, Ms. Smith knocks our socks off with this outstanding thriller.

Sisters Jo and Caroline have always had a strained relationship full of rivalry, but these things hit an all-time high in the midst of their grief over the death of their father and upon the revelation that he left the bulk of the family inheritance to Jo. The sisters have very different ideas about what should be done with the family business and now that Jo has the final say, it creates a deeper rift between them. This is a story of a fractured family that is coming apart at the seams. A family where secrets, lies, trauma, conflict and betrayal bubble beneath the surface, threatening to boil over and destroy everything in its path.

Emotionally charged, compelling and mysterious, this book bristles with a gloriously sinister tension from start to finish, keeping you on the edge of your seat. I was a huge fan of Smith’s debut and she has secured her place on my list of must-read authors with this sensational follow up. Exquisitely written, pacy and full of surprising twists, she knows how to hold the reader in the palm of her hand. I love how she can entertain while also addressing deeper topics, making the reader think as she looks at the masks we wear around those closest to us and just how far people are prepared to go for those they love. And her exploration of grief, how it is something very different to each individual and the effect it can have on your relationships, is heart-achingly raw and real.

She also addresses domestic abuse in a candid and unflinching manner that may be hard for some to read but, as an abuse survivor, I appreciated for the authenticity of the characters and storyline. Caroline’s all-consuming terror radiated from the page, turning the clock back thirteen years for me, and I could sadly recognise Rob’s vile, soulless and cowardly character.

This is an adrenaline-filled thrill ride that will have you reading with bated breath. So addictive that I had to force myself to put it down at 4am so I could sleep, I devoured this one in almost one sitting. It is a must-read for anyone who enjoys this genre, just make sure you don’t have anything else to do because you won’t want to put it down.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

TW: Domestic Abuse

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Nikki Smith studied English Literature at the University of Birmingham and went on to forge a career in finance; working for companies including a city bank and a trampoline park. She’d always wanted to write, and prompted by someone she hadn’t seen since school contacting her to ask if she’d ever done anything with her writing, signed up for a Curtis Brown creative writing course in 2017. She went on to win a short story competition and mentorship by the author Amanda Reynolds before being accepted for representation by Sophie Lambert at C+W. Her debut novel, ALL IN HER HEAD, went on submission in January 2019 and she accepted a pre-empt offer for a two book deal by Orion ten days later. LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO is her second novel and will be published in April 2021. She lives in Guildford with her husband, two daughters and a burmese cat, Saffi, who thinks she’s a dog.

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thank you Orion for the gifted ARC and invitation to take part in the tour. Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxxx

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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Source by Sarah Sultoon

Published: April 15th, 2021
Publisher: Orenda Books
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Political Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction

SYNOPSIS:

A young TV journalist is forced to revisit her harrowing past when she’s thrust into a sex-trafficking investigation in her hometown. A startling, searing debut thriller by award-winning CNN journalist Sarah Sultoon.
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1996. Essex.
 Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak…

2006. London. Junior TV newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sex abuse at an army base a decade earlier…

As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth … and justice.

A riveting, searing and devastatingly dark thriller, The Source is also a story about survival, about hopes and dreams, about power, abuse and resilience … an immense, tense and thought-provoking debut that you will never, ever forget.

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MY REVIEW:

The Source is a story of survival and strength, of power, abuse and corruption, and of finally finding justice. It is a story of a cesspit of evil and the nefarious characters that can hide behind a mask of authority and respectability; and a story of the courage and resilience of those who were their prey. 

It is told in three parts and in two timelines: in 1996. 13-year-old Carly is living on an army base with her mum and baby sister. Her world is one of neglect and doing whatever it takes to survive. She begins partying with the squddies in the barracks, turning to drinking, drugs and sex to escape the realities of her life. But things take an even darker turn and Carly finds herself embroiled in something much bigger, scarier and more powerful than she anticipated.  

In 2006, journalist Marie is taking part in her first undercover case. But after she and her team successfully get the evidence they need to a expose sex trafficing case, the Met quashes their story by announcing new evidence in Operation Andromeda: the investigation into sexual abuse in the army a decade earlier. Moving seamlessly between the two narratives, the author weaves the two stories together as secrets are exposed and the fight for long-overdue justice continues. 

Sultoon writes unflinchingly but with sensitivity. While it is horrifically authentic, it is never graphic, focusing instead on the emotions of the characters to tell the story. I was particularly drawn to Carly and her little sister Kayleigh. They are so evocatively written that you can feel their pain as if it’s your own and I wanted to reach in and save them from the neglect and nightmare that was their life. 

Unsettling, raw and close to the bone, this isn’t an easy read. This is a book that will elicit strong emotions: heartbreak, shock, outrage, disgust. If I’m honest, I might not have picked it up if I’d known the subject matter ahead of time, and there was a point I wasn’t sure if I could keep reading, but having finished I’m glad I kept going. 

The Source is a fast-paced, eye-opening and compassionate exploration of some of the darkest aspects of our society by a talented author. A striking debut. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

TW: Sexual abuse, child abuse, eating disorders 

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer, whose work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs. As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if … 

Twitter

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in this tour and to Karen at Orenda Books for the eBook ARC. Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours Book Features

Book Feature: The Drowned City (Daniel Pursglove 1) by K. J. Maitland

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Headline
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Historical Mystery, Thriller

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Today I’m featuring the first in a new historical fiction series set in the Jacobean era.

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SYNOPSIS:

Gunpowder and treason changed England forever. But the tides are turning and revenge runs deep in this compelling historical thriller for fans of C.J. Sansom, Andrew Taylor’s Ashes of London, Kate Mosse and Blood Sugar.

1606. A year to the day that men were executed for conspiring to blow up Parliament, a towering wave devastates the Bristol Channel. Some proclaim God’s vengeance. Others seek to take advantage.

In London, Daniel Pursglove lies in prison waiting to die. But Charles FitzAlan, close adviser to King James I, has a job in mind that will free a man of Daniel’s skill from the horrors of Newgate. If he succeeds.

For Bristol is a hotbed of Catholic spies, and where better for the lone conspirator who evaded arrest, one Spero Pettingar, to gather allies than in the chaos of a drowned city? Daniel journeys there to investigate FitzAlan’s lead, but soon finds himself at the heart of a dark Jesuit conspiracy – and in pursuit of a killer.

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If this sounds like a book you’d enjoy, then head over to my Instagram page where I’m giving away a proof copy of this book.

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Karen Maitland is an historical novelist, lecturer and teacher of Creative Writing, with over twenty books to her name, including the much-loved Company of Liars. She grew up in Malta, which inspired her passion for history, and travelled and worked all over the world before settling in the United Kingdom. She has a doctorate in psycholinguistics, and now lives on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon.

Website | Twitter

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org*| Amazon*| Google Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Headline for the gifted ARC. Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours Book Features Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Nighthawking by Russ Thomas

Published: April 29th, 2021
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Hardboiled, Police Procedural, Crime Series

SYNOPSIS:

The latest novel by the author of FIREWATCHING, by ‘a bold and brilliant new voice in crime fiction’ 
 
Sheffield’s beautiful Botanical Gardens – an oasis of peace in a world filled with sorrow, confusion and pain. And then, one morning, a body is found in the Gardens. A young woman, dead from a stab wound, buried in a quiet corner. Police quickly determine that the body’s been there for months. It would have gone undiscovered for years – but someone just sneaked into the Gardens and dug it up.
 
Who is the victim? Who killed her and hid her body? Who dug her up? And who left a macabre marker on the body?
 
In his quest to find her murderer, DS Adam Tyler will find himself drawn into the secretive world of nighthawkers: treasure-hunters who operate under cover of darkness, seeking the lost and valuable… and willing to kill to keep what they find.
 
That which was lost… will always be found again

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MY REVIEW:

He can’t bear to think of her that way, all cold and dead and wasting away in her grave beneath the rose bushes. He’d always pictured her whole, whenever he thought about her. All peaceful and sleeping. The way she’d looked when he buried her.”

On a cold winter night, a nighthawker – a treasure hunter who operates under the cloak of darkness – breaks into Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens to search for treasures buried beneath the flower beds and instead uncovers the arm of a murdered young woman. DS Adam Tyler is called in to investigate, drawing him and his team into the mysterious, tangled web of nighthawkers, hidden treasure, secrets and murder. 

Russ Thomas’ debut thriller, Firewatching, was one of my favourite books of last year, leaving me eagerly awaiting its follow up. But with such excitement comes trepidation. Would Nighthawking live up to the brilliance of Firewatching? The answer is, yes. Like its predecessor, Nighthawking is a heart-pounding thriller that had me on the edge of my seat. 

Being set in my hometown gives this series a special place in my heart, but that isn’t the only reason I love these books. They are exquisitely written, intricate and action-packed, bringing Sheffield to life not only in terms of the vivid imagery, but the atmosphere. When I first heard that this book would be set in the Botanical Gardens I was delighted as it is probably my favourite place in the city. I even went there just last week and loved how clearly I could picture every moment that happened there. It was a fabulous setting that the author has clearly researched extensively and I know that the Gardens will forever be synonymous with this book for me. 

The author has filled this book with a cast of richly drawn, compelling and nuanced characters. The multiple narrators allow him to weave in the human elements of the story and offer us greater insight into their nature, behaviour and motivations, and drawing more empathy from us for certain characters by showing us the trauma and pain they have suffered. I loved being back with Tyler and his team, a realistic bunch who bicker and don’t always work together well. I like that Tyler isn’t your usual affable and charming protagonist. He is someone you warm up to and I think his spiky, zealous nature gives the books a bit of an edge over the ones with a more likeable central character. I was glad to see Mina Rabbani back as she is probably my favourite character. It was great to see her  grow in confidence and come into her own over the course of this book and I’m looking forward to seeing what is in store for her next. 

Complex, twisty, dark and exhilarating, Nighthawking is an addictive page-turner that keeps you guessing. This can be read as a standalone, but I would highly recommend reading them in order because they are simply fantastic thrillers. My only question after that nail-biting finale is how long do I have to wait until book three? 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

RUSS THOMAS was born in Essex, raised in Berkshire and now lives in Sheffield. After a few ‘proper’ jobs (among them: pot-washer, optician’s receptionist, supermarket warehouse operative, call-centre telephonist, and storage salesman) he discovered the joys of bookselling, where he could talk to people about books all day. Firewatching is his debut novel.

Website| Instagram | Twitter

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon*| Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Simon & Schuster UK for the gifted ARC. Please check out the reviews from other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Girls from Alexandria by Carol Cooper

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Agora Books
Format: Kindle (Paperback published April 29th)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Crime Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Historical Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this evocative novel. Thank you to Peyton at Agora Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

‘A compelling, multi-layered read – equal parts funny, frank and sinister’ – Fiona Valpy, author of The Dressmaker’s Gift

Memories are fragile when you are seventy years old. I can’t afford to lose any more of them, not when remembering the past might help with the here and now.

Nadia needs help. Help getting out of her hospital bed. Help taking her pills. One thing she doesn’t need help with is remembering her sister. But she does need help finding her.

Alone and abandoned in a London hospital, 70-year-old Nadia is facing the rest of her life spent in a care home unless she can contact her sister Simone… who’s been missing for 50 years.

Despite being told she’s ‘confused’ and not quite understanding how wi-fi works, Nadia is determined to find Simone. So with only cryptic postcards and her own jumbled memories to go on, Nadia must race against her own fading faculties and find her sister before she herself is forgotten.

Set against the lush and glamorous backdrop of 20th century Alexandria, Carol Cooper’s third novel is equal parts contemporary mystery and historical fiction: a re-coming of age story about family, identity, and homeland.

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MY REVIEW:

Seventy-year-old Nadia is in a London hospital and not quite sure what’s going on. Her memory isn’t what it used to be, and she keeps getting confused and misremembering. But one thing she’s sure of is that she needs to find her sister Simone, who she hasn’t seen in fifty years. The problem is, no one else believes Simone exists. Well, no one except the lovely nurse Deidre, who tries to help her find her sister before it’s too late.

The author opens the book talking about how her inspiration for the story came from her own memories of growing up in Alexandria and you can really feel that authenticity radiating from the pages. The author offers the reader not only an insight into the cultural and political landscape of Egypt, but also an authentic perspective on how it feels to grow up in Alexandria, its multiculturalism and verve oozing from the pages. It is a fascinating, educational and thought-provoking read, the author touching on a variety of subjects such as family, identity, loss, loneliness and female empowerment. 

Nadia is a character I won’t soon forget. It is impossible not to feel for her lying in hospital distressed, confused and alone. But there is so much more to her.  She is a nuanced, funny, compelling and feisty character who is determined to find her sister by solving the brief, cryptic messages she wrote on decades-old postcards; even learning how to use the internet to search for answers. I enjoyed following her through timelines, countries and cultures as she revisited old memories and searched them for any small clue that might lead her to her beloved sister. 

I will admit that it took me a little while to get into the rhythm of this story. The huge shift between the bleak British hospital where Nadia languishes alone and confused and the striking, sunny backdrop of Alexandria was difficult to follow at first, particularly as the flashbacks don’t follow a chronological order. But once I did I was engrossed, lost in Nadia’s story and fully invested in her search for Simone. 

This novel is unlike anything else I’ve read. Merging historical fiction, mystery and coming-of-age fiction,, the author has crafted a multilayered, evocative and affecting story that will linger long after reading. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Carol graduated in medicine from Cambridge University. She then spent time in different hospital specialities, including orthopaedic surgery and rheumatology, before entering general practice when her first son was born.

Carol’s journalism and broadcasting developed in tandem with GP work, and she is now well-known as a media medic. She writes for The Sun newspaper and other titles, and broadcasts on TV and radio on topical health issues.

Many of Carol’s non-fiction books are on child health and parenting, such as the much-loved guide Twins & Multiple Births, and the titles combine her professional expertise and her personal experience as a mother. As co-author of the book General Practice at a Glance, Carol won a British Medical Association book award in 2013. A companion volume, General Practice Cases at a Glance, appeared later.

Carol’s frivolous side has never been far from the surface. She became a columnist for Punch magazine and her articles can still be read in dentists’ waiting rooms. Her contemporary novels One Night at the Jacaranda and Hampstead Fever are also infused with a sharp wit. Her next novel, The Girls from Alexandriais due to be published in April 2021.

At Imperial College, London, Carol teaches medical students consultation skills, clinical reasoning, and medicine in the media. 

Carol is a Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, a trustee of Action on Pre-Eclampsia, an ambassador for Lucy Air Ambulance for Children, and honorary consultant in family medicine for the Twins Trust (formerly Tamba). She was elected President of the Guild of Health Writers in 2014.

Website | Instagram | Twitter

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon*| Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*

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Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours Book Features Emma's Anticipated Treasures First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday

Welcome to First Lines Friday where I share the first lines from one of the books on my shelves to try and tempt you to add it to yours.

“The girls, Selkie Holm, Orkney, November 1942.
Of all the ways to die, drowning must be the most peaceful. Water above, sounds cushioned, womb-dark. Drowning is a return to something before the knife-blade of living. It is the death we would choose, if the choice was ours to make.”

What eerie and evocative first lines! They are from a book I have been anticipating ever since the author announced it last year. It even featured on my list of the 21 books I was most anticipating in 2021 and, more recently, my most anticipated books out in April. And that book is…

The Metal Heart by Caroline Lea, which is published by Michael Joseph on April 29th.

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SYNOPSIS:

The sky is clear, star-stamped and silvered by the waxing gibbous moon.

No planes have flown over the islands tonight; no bombs have fallen for over a year.
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Orkney, 1940. Five hundred Italian prisoners-of-war arrive to fortify these remote and windswept islands. Resentful islanders are fearful of the enemy in their midst, but not orphaned twin sisters Dorothy and Constance. Already outcasts, they volunteer to nurse all prisoners who are injured or fall sick.

Soon Dorothy befriends Cesare, an artists swept up by the machine of war and almost broken by the horrors he has witnessed. She is entranced by his plan to build an Italian chapel from war scrap and sea debris, and something beautiful begins to blossom.

But Con, scarred from a betrayal in her past, is afraid for her sister; she knows that people are not always what they seem.

Soon, trust frays between the islanders and outsiders, and between the sisters – their hearts torn by rival claims of duty and desire. A storm is coming…

In the tradition of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, The Metal Heart is a hauntingly rich Second World War love story about courage, brutality, freedom and beauty and the essence of what makes us human during the darkest of times.

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How amazing does that sound? I absolutely loved the author’s debut novel, The Glass Woman, when I read it in 2019 and immediately pre-ordered this one when it was announced. If you also want to pre-order, you can do so here*.

I will be sharing my review for this one on April 20th as part of the blog tour. Thank you to Michael Joseph for the gifted ARC.

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Thank you for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

*This is an affiliate link

Categories
Blog Tours Extract

Blog Tour – Extract: The Shadow in the Glass by JJA Harwood

Published: March 18th, 2021
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Fairy Tale, Dark Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Gaslamp Fantasy

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Today, I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Shadow in the Glass, and sharing an extract from this retelling of Cinderella.

EXTRACT:

If anyone caught her, Eleanor would be dismissed on the spot. The house clicked and creaked as it settled into sleep, the heat of the last days of August quietly slipping into the night. Eleanor was the only one awake. On silent feet, she was as insubstantial as a flame. She could drift past cold fireplaces and dust sheets looming like glaciers and all she would leave behind was the faintest stirring in the air.

Candlelight shimmered on the walls as she crept into the library. The dark spines of the books were rows of windows, waiting for the shutters to be pulled back. Open one, and she would know the secrets of Ottoman palaces; open another, and she would gaze across deserts. Granborough House would fade away. Eleanor smiled. Some things were worth risking dismissal for, especially with the master out of the house for the evening.

Eleanor set down her candle and surveyed her subjects. Damp equatorial rainforests, steaming in the heat. Versailles, glittering in the dark like an Earthbound star. Verona – Juliet on her balcony, sighing into the darkness. It was a perfect night for poetry: she could stretch out her legs and whisper sonnets into the slow, hot silence. But she would cry, and Mrs Fielding would be able to tell the next morning. Better to keep her face blank, in case the housekeeper grew curious. Eleanor locked the door, slipping the library key back up her sleeve. She’d stolen the key from Mrs Pembroke’s house- keeping chatelaine. Even though the mistress of the house had been dead for more than three years, shame still crawled under Eleanor’s skin when she went through Mrs Pembroke’s things. Not that Mrs Pembroke would have minded. She had spent the last few months of her life propped up on pillows, telling Eleanor how to care for everything she would inherit from Mrs Pembroke’s will.

The weight of the key against Eleanor’s forearm felt like shackles. Mrs Pembroke never would have wanted Eleanor to creep around the house like a thief, just for something to read. The lady of the house had not wanted Eleanor to be a housemaid at all. Versailles, Verona, perhaps even the rainforest – these were all places Eleanor might have visited, if only Mrs Pembroke had lived. A lump crawled into Eleanor’s throat. Mrs Pembroke had been planning to take her on a tour of Europe when Eleanor was old enough to enter Society.
Suddenly it seemed cruel to have so many travelogues spread out in front of her, when she’d once been so close to seeing the places all these men had written of.

Eleanor gave herself a little shake. She’d told herself not to get upset.

She lifted The Fairy Ring off the shelves and felt better the moment it was in her hand. Her own fingerprints from years ago marked the table of contents – smaller, of course, than they were now – the corner of the back cover was fraying slightly, from all the times she’d plucked at it as she read.


Settling into her favourite chair with that book in her hands, the lump in her throat melted away. At seventeen, she knew she ought to have grown out of such things, but it was difficult to set aside a world where trees grew delicate gold and silver branches and strange creatures lurked in cool, clear water. She lost herself on narrow paths twisting through dark woods, yearned to spin straw into gold, and envied the twelve brothers who had been changed into swans. It seemed like a fine thing to be a clean white bird that might fly anywhere it liked.

She put the book back when the clock struck midnight, making sure to replace it exactly where she found it. The chimes were quiet, but the sound dropped through to the pit of Eleanor’s stomach like a leaden weight. An old memory struggled to the surface of her thoughts – she was nine years old and curled into a ball, back pressed against the leg of an iron bed as a cheaper, harsher clock tolled midnight – but she shook it off. It wouldn’t do to think of her own mother now, she’d make herself upset again. Somewhere outside a hansom cab rattled over the cobblestones; she flinched, heart pounding, and almost knocked her candle over. Mr Pembroke was supposed to be dining at his club tonight. What if he’d changed his mind and come back early?

Eleanor listened at the door, forcing her nerves into submission. Nothing from downstairs. If she was quick, no one would even guess that she’d left her room. She crept back up the servants’ staircase and slipped into her little room, trying not to wilt at the sight of the bare boards, the skeletal iron bedframe, her useless scrap of curtain hanging limp over the window. She crawled into bed, ignoring the smell of mildew from the blankets and holding the memory of the fairy stories like hands cupped around a tiny flame. When she slept, she dreamed of vast wings carrying her away, and she could not tell if they were her own.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

JJA Harwood is an author, editor and blogger. She grew up in Norfolk, read History at the University of Warwick and eventually found her way to London, which is still something of a shock for somebody used to so many fields.

When not writing, she can be found learning languages, cooking with more enthusiasm than skill, wandering off into clearly haunted houses and making friends with stray cats. THE SHADOW IN THE GLASS is her debut novel.

Twitter | Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour and to JJA Harwood and HarperVoyager for the extract.

Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, Bibliophiles, Emma xxx